Mystery Writers Like California | British Mysteries
Our Children and Books | History and Politics
We’re continuously creating interesting categories in our Bookstore. See our Bookstore / Book Sale Categories. Also, we find our Bookstore Sales are seasonal, just like all retail stores. When schools start, we have high school and college students checking out our Classics sections for required reading for their classes. We have books with information on Advanced Placement classes, Testing, and other Educational materials. We also have teachers looking over our children's books for their classroom libraries. We never have enough easy-reading books for early elementary grades.
For holidays, we have readers looking for pristine books for gifts. Books are always popular. Also they want books that suit the special interests of relatives and friends: Books on the Civil War for history buffs; one for cooks about French or other gourmet cooking; a book of plays for a budding actor, or ??? You name it. We've got books on almost anything.
In Spring and Summer, we have travelers coming in for travel books and paperbacks for vacation reading that are inexpensive enough to discard as they travel, and don't take up a lot of room in the suitcase.
And, there are always people coming in with lists to add more titles of their favorite authors or interests to their home library collections. I heard of someone giving a party who wanted some inexpensive but interesting prizes for party game winners. She used books from our bookstore and wrapped them in an appealing style. One person got a book on improving her beginning bridge game; another got a copy of last year's best seller; another a current celebrity's autobiography. Everyone was delighted and several agreed to pass their copies on when finished with them.
We’re fortunate that so many community members (like you) donate gently-read books because those, along with some Library withdrawn books, are our entire inventory!
Yes, our Friends bookstore is many things to many people. Our Membership Fees and Bookstore and Book Sale Income are the money source that the Friends donate back to the Library for these much needed items: New current best seller books, other hardcover and paperback books, CDs, DVDs, and audiobooks, along with new Library programming, supplies, and furniture replacements.
Finally - we always need more Volunteer Helpers! People like you who have an hour or two of spare-time-a-week or a brief occasional time to help out for a good cause. And, of course, we always need people who would like to sort book donations or work at our quarterly Big Book Sales. One thing we can guarantee is that in volunteering with Friends of the Library, you'll meet pleasant, literate, new friends and acquaintances.
To find Our Book Store, just turn right past the checkout desk and go to the end of the room. Outside the Book Store entrance, on your right, are three carts of paperback fiction. The last cart also has a shelf for science fiction and another for romance novels. On your left is a cart with children's books on one side and travel and computer books on the other. The children's books sell well to parents and teachers in addition to kids. At five for a dollar for most, it's more than a bargain. The travel books are popular with both real and wishful-thinking travelers, as well as nostalgic travelers who enjoy remembering previous trips.
And all this is before you even get into the Book Store! Inside on your left are hard-cover fiction, classics, poetry and religion, all are in alphabetical order by author. At the end of the Book Store (Where you pay a ridiculously small amount for your purchase) are the larger paperbacks, coffee-table books, large print books, videos, DVD's, CDs, and Audiobooks . On your right are non-fiction books: film and theater, writing, foreign-language books, study guides, cookbooks, history, politics, biographies, business, and many more.
Our prices are the best in town. Most hard-covers are $1 and paper-backs are 50¢ to $1. So, if you haven't been to our Book Store, please drop in. We usually open half an hour after the Library opens and close a half-hour earlier. Remember, all proceeds are for the Library.
YOURS FOR MORE AND BETTER READING,
Jane Gebers, Past Member-at-Large,
Friends of Encino-Tarzana Branch Library
BIOGRAPHIES AND AUTOBIOGRAPHIES
I love these because I love a good gossip. I enjoy finding out more about people I know from TV, movies, or the news. There are three kinds of biographies. The first ones are strictly factual and have footnotes and data at the back. These can be very informative as well as a good read. The second classification is the "Isn't he wonderful" type. These usually have a lot of input from the person being written about. The third biography is the put-down type, such as those written by Kitty Kelly. She looks for lurid details and as much dirt as possible.
I also enjoy autobiographies, which people write about themselves. No matter how circumspect the author tries to be, you get glimpses of the real person. Some are surprisingly frank, like the ones by Mary Astor, Shelley Winters, Diana Barrymore and Drew Barrymore. But they're actresses aren't they? Male actors are inclined to be less tell-all.
Books written by relatives and friends can be very informative. One about Marlene Dietrich by her daughter Maria Riva was a true eye-brow raiser. And, of course, you can think of other actors' daughters who wrote about their mothers. Being a movie star and a mother don't seem to be compatible occupations.
Most biographies and autobiographies are written by important or famous people, but some of the most interesting are ones written by ordinary people. I remember one slim volume by a fisherman who ferried Jews from Denmark to Sweden during WWII. Another was written by a woman pioneer.
You never know what treasures you'll find when you go through our biography section in the Friends Book Store. They are on the non-fiction side on the lower three shelves in the center. Biographies may contain a fair amount of fiction, but it's up to us to be skeptical readers. Come see what we have. See how people became rich and famous. You might find a secret of success you can copy! And, if you've never considered reading biographies or autobiographies, you may be pleasantly surprised and find a whole new genre to dip into.
You've read the Classics. Of course you have. Well, you know Moby Dick is about a whale --- and didn't Gregory Peck make the movie? Then there's Tom Jones and wasn't the young Albert Finney every woman's dreamboat? And how about The Brothers Karamazov --- the Russian book and movie that Marilyn Monroe always wanted to star in (not playing one of the brothers, I presume).
You get the point. You know something about all these books. It's a matter of Cultural Literacy, isn't it? But, have you actually read them? Well now's your chance! As I write this article in the Library Book Store I see them all on our Classics Bookshelf section. There's also Of Human Bondage. I read it when I was young and thought the hero would be an ideal candidate for group therapy with Bob Newhart on his old TV show, where he played a psychiatrist.
Many other GREAT books are waiting right here for you now by the likes of Charles Dickens, Dumas, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Tolstoy, Saroyan, Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, Shakespeare, and lots more. Come on by the book store and for only 50 cents or a dollar you can raise your cultural literacy while spending some delightful hours in imaginative reading adventures! These books are called "classics" because they have stood the test of time --- and are just as entertaining (or more so) than the latest best-selling novel. Try them; you'll like the experience!
MYSTERY WRITERS LIKE CALIFORNIA
Mystery writers set their stamp on certain locations. For instance Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawsky solves Chicago's murders. Loren D. Estleman covers crime in Detroit, both past and present. Tony Hillerman's heroes are Navajo policemen who operate on reservations. Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon finds murder and mayhem in the National Parks. J.A. Jance began with action in Seattle and then moved with her Sheriff, Joanna Brady, to Bisbee, Arizona. Boston has Robert B. Parker. Robert K. Tanenbaum thrills readers with New York City crimes, but Kate Willhelm finds villains in little Eugene, Oregon.
No one though can compete with California. We practically invented the genre with Dasheill Hammett's Sam Spade in San Francisco, Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in L.A. and Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer who moved around Southern California.
Plenty of current mystery writers locate their crime solvers in California too. Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone is L.A. based, though she moves around the state chasing her mysterious C.I.A. lover. Robert Crais has two L.A. characters, Elvis Cole a wise-cracking private eye and Carol Starkey, a bomb squad technician. Walter Mosley's detective, Easy Rawlins, works (worked?) in old L.A. from WW II to the 1960's. Sue Grafton with her ABC books calls her town Santa Teresa but we know it's really Santa Barbara. Perri O'Shaughnessy (really two sisters who write together) has a heroine who works in Lake Tahoe.
My favorite of all of these is Michael Connelly. Not only is he an excellent writer, but his heroes actually come over the hill to the Valley. They get chili dogs at Cupids. They hang around the Van Nuys Civic Center where so many of us have done jury duty. They investigate suspects in Panorama City and Porter Ranch. Any day I expect them to drop in our Library Friends Book Store. Connelly's Detective Harry Bosch working on LAPD cases and Defense Attorney Mickey Haller are great favorites.
I've left out many good California mystery writers, but space is limited. Come to our Friends Book Store to look for your favorite California mystery writer or ones from your old home town.
The French have only French mystery writers and the German and Russian the same. However, we lucky Americans have not only our own writers, but British as well, who write in almost the same language.
Today let's look at some of the British ones. The best known , of course, are Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes books, as readable now as in the 1800's and Agatha Christie. Some of hers are only so-so, but her best, such as And Then There Were None and Witness for the Prosecution are classics.
Others from the era just past include Josephine Tey. Her best being The Daughter of Time which combined history and mystery and a hero who never made it out of his hospital bed. Margery Allingham wrote, among many others, Tiger in the Smoke -- my candidate for the best title of any mystery book. Dorothy Sayers books are a bit dated, but are still worth reading, Gaudy Night, The Nine Tailors, and Murder Must Advertise are my favorites. Reading them is like being transported to England in the early 1930's.
But the best of British mystery writing isn't just in the past. There are first-rate authors turning out books now: Minette Walters, Ken Follett, P. D. James, R. D. Wingfield with his unconventional policeman Jack Frost, and Anne Perry with her historical mysteries. Dick Francis is often on the best seller list. Some people say his books are just about horse racing but they aren't. It's true, there's always a horse somewhere and beautiful as they are I share Oscar Wilde's opinion, "Horses are dangerous at both ends and damn uncomfortable in the middle". However Francis' books are great on characterization, well plotted and a good read.
Two writers I've discovered recently are Margaret Yorke and Peter Robinson. Her books are gems and his get better all the time. It's rewarding to find an author whose early books are just pretty good but improve as he matures.
An unusual author is Elizabeth George. Her books are as British as British can be, but she's actually a Californian!
When you find an author you like and you want to read his/her previous books you'll often find they aren't in the book stores -which stock only the latest-- and many aren't even in the Library. Our Friends of the Library Book Store is the first and cheapest place to look. After that try the Valley second-hand book stores. Their price is usually half of the cover price.
Some people want to read only the latest book or see the latest movie, but older books and movies can be better. They haven't turned out any Casablanca's lately.
Aren't we lucky to have two countries turning out mystery books we like and can read? Keep exploring and trying new authors. There are so many you haven't met yet.
OUR CHILDREN AND BOOKS
As members of Friends of the Library, naturally, we want our children and grandchildren to be readers like us. Being able to read and being a reader are two different things. A real reader inhales a book a week, or at least one a month.
How do we develop a love of books and reading in our children? As a former teacher I suggest you start early with those little cardboard baby books. When I buy a baby gift - whatever it is - I include a book. I have bought a zillion copies of "Pat the Bunny." My grandkids' favorite is "Good Night Gorilla," but there are dozens of irresistible ones. Some teach visual discrimination, names of colors or objects or any number of things - and some are just for fun.
Read to your babies: Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss, fairy tales and so many more. Keep reading to your children, even after they can read by themselves. It's a bonding experience and a great opportunity to talk with your child. All sorts of things can come up when you're reading together.
When one of my sons was about 12 and a dedicated TV viewer, I wanted something to lure him back to reading books. I went to a book store and bought him a dozen books he might be interested in including mythology, Vikings, war history (still a favorite subject) repairing things, etc. His favorite was a book about 1920's Chicago gangsters - but what the hey, he was reading again and became a teacher! Somehow boys seem to need more encouragement to keep up the reading habit than girls do.
Besides having a collection of books at home, including old favorites they can turn to when bored, children need a library card, someone to keep track of their books and regular trips to the Library to keep their interests stirred up. Life can be busy for both parents and child, but if one of your priorities is to develop a child reader (getting scarcer these days) you need to keep books readily at hand for your child. Current surveys show that 85% of teenagers still prefer a book in hand over digital format!!
And, don't forget our Friends Used Book Store. Just outside the Bookstore’s entrance is a special cart with children’s books on one side. Sometimes we have a plethora of books and other times an anemic selection. (it all depends on your donations). Please do donate books your kids have outgrown, but
be sure to ask your child first. They might like to hang on to some old favorites. Finally, make sure each child has a home library of his/her own.
HISTORY AND POLITICS
When the Friends' Book Store was set to open, Dick Sorenson and I were deciding which Non-Fiction categories to use. We had a number of donations in the areas of HISTORY AND POLITICS, so we put them together, and it has proven to be one of our most popular non-fiction categories. I've taken home so many good books from there myself -- books by Winston Churchill, (a stupendous intellect and read), Doris Kearns Goodwin, Bob Woodward, and Theodore H. White. Most of us have heard Santayana say, "Those who cannot remember the past must repeat it."
Apropos of which, I recently read John Kenneth Galbraith's The Great Crash of 1929 first published in 1954. It detailed economic crashes like Holland's tulip collapse, the South Sea Bubble that spread financial destruction in Britain, the Florida land boom and bust in the 1920's and, finally, the 1929 Stock Market crash leading to the Great Depression. Anyone reading that, and comparing current conditions during the past years, could see exactly what was about to pounce on us (look at the Savings and Loan fiasco)! History repeats itself for the unaware.
Recently, I saw books by Studs Terkel, George Stephanopoulos, Richard Nixon, John J. Sirica, Robert H. Bork, H. R. Haldeman, Sam Donaldson, and Mikhail Gorbachev.
If this category is in your area of interest, be sure to also check out the BIOGRAPHY section (above). We've had or have biographies or autobiographies of many past presidents, first ladies and many other famous heroes and villains, past and present.